Since President Cyril Ramaphosa first declared a national state of disaster, which later progressed into a five-level risk adjustment strategy approach to combat the COVID-19 global pandemic, many South Africans have found themselves in unusual and increasingly challenging circumstances. Due to the closing of both local and international borders, South African citizens who were living and visiting abroad found themselves stranded and unable to travel back home. During a virtual media briefing in April, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr. Naledi Pandor, stated that many South Africans had requested to be repatriated and that actions were being put into place to bring them back safely.
Since Mid-April, the National Department of Health (NDoH) and Aurum Innova have entered into a joint venture to ensure the Health and Wellness of repatriated South Africans, healthcare workers and hotel staff during the recommended 14-day period of isolation. Aurum Innova and NDoH have accommodated over 5500 South Africans thus far in 25 quarantine sites in the City of Johannesburg.
All healthcare workers deployed at any of these quarantine sites are also required to stay for the full 14-day period to prevent any form of transmission, and to ensure repatriates have access to medical care at any time. The medical care provided includes daily health screenings and provisional counselling and treatment when needed. Repatriates who have tested positive for, or are suspected to have COVID-19 are transported to healthcare facilities to receive further treatment and evaluation. Once the 14-day period is complete and results have been received, repatriates are then released from quarantine and can then go back home.
Simphiwe Ntshingila, a South African citizen repatriated from the United Kingdom:
“The journey back home was really strenuous, because when the President first announced the national lockdown, I was not sure how I was going to get back. It was a very difficult process to get a flight, but I was really relieved to be back in the country. Unfortunately, I had more then one of the COVID-19 symptoms, so some of my time in quarantine was spent in the hospital.
Fortunately, staying in the quarantine site was not challenging at all. The healthcare workers and programme manager were very helpful and hands-on. Our needs were always catered to, and I had no complaints. After the quarantine period I was able to go home and be back with my family”
Kiyashni Kollepen, a South African citizen repatriated from United Arab Emirates:
“The flight back was very unorthodox and filled with many safety precautions. It was a lengthy process from boarding to checking into the site, but very well organised by the government and hotel staff. Although I could not return home immediately after landing, I felt relieved to be back on home soil and close to family and loved ones. Not being able to leave the room and the uncertainty of testing was quite challenging, but I managed to keep busy by watching series, video calling with friends and family, and getting some work done.
The staff and healthcare workers on site were exceptional and made our stay so comfortable. They went out of their way to make us feel at home, and ensure that our queries and requests were attended to and that we were regularly informed. I’m very thankful to everyone for taking care of us and providing efficient service.”
Aurum Innova nursing staff led by Occupational Health nurse manager Cynthia Mafolo, have been working tirelessly and efficiently to provide the best healthcare needed to all repatriates during their time in quarantine. “Setting up and managing the quarantine sites has been challenging, but our team of nurses has made it all worthwhile. This pandemic is something new to all of us, and I am so pleased with how everyone has adapted. We have deployed over 180 nurses thus far on a locum basis and are, together with the department of health, committed to this fight and flattening the curve” said Mafolo.